Clear vision: Seeing a future with the CA

Nicki Eastlake-Bent
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

30 August 2016

Specsavers International Tax Manager Nicki Eastlake-Bent CA ITP has followed an interesting path to where she is today.

After leaving university with degrees in Biochemistry and Psychology, Nicki took a career turn that most wouldn't expect. Following graduation, she spent four and a half years as a Police Officer with Gloucestershire Police Force.

Eventually, seeking a better work/life balance and inspired by the career of a friend, Nicki decided to train as a CA with EY.

She is now the International Tax Manager for Specsavers Optical Group, responsible for the reports, consolidation and compliance of a global organisation.

Nicki spoke to CA Today about why becoming a CA was the right decision for her.

Nicki Eastlake-Bent CA

Why make the switch from science to finance? 

After a bit of research, I saw that there was a wide variety of different career opportunities within finance and the possibility to travel, which I thought was something I could get on board with.

When I decided to make the switch I realised that the analytical, research and communication skills I learnt during my science degree would be beneficial when studying towards my CA qualification and I also use them in my job on a daily basis.

With the way the ICAS course is structured, it really doesn't matter what your degree is in. While I was studying, the people alongside me had a wide variety of degrees, including History, French and Engineering.

Why do you like being a CA and a member of ICAS?

Being able to tell people that I am a CA gives me an immense amount of pride.

I worked hard for my qualification but the rewards and benefits are well worth it. Now I’m a member I get daily emails keeping me up-to-date with relevant news. This is such a time saver.

There are also opportunities to attend continuing professional development courses and various conferences as well as social events.

How has the CA qualification helped you in your career to date?

I work in tax, and therefore completing the CA wasn’t a requirement to do my job. I could have just done the ITP.

I chose to do both as it meant that I had a wider understanding of the area I was working in. In my current role, knowledge of accounting standards and account preparation really helps me understand where the finance teams I work with are coming from and therefore make me better at what I need to do to support them.

Becoming a CA takes a lot of hard work and as such it comes with a certain amount of respect and prestige within the industry.

Which part of your job do you enjoy the most? 

I really enjoy the chance to travel to different countries with my job and experience the different office cultures. If I'm lucky, I also get to see a bit of the cities.

In Norway they have an office meeting with cake and fruit on Friday afternoons and sometimes finish a little early. In Denmark, bread, jams and fruit are available in the kitchen for breakfast every day - it’s really interesting to see.

I also love the fact that no two days are the same. Yes, I have the routine work that I need to complete but in-between different challenges and opportunities are always arising.

What do you view as your greatest achievement?

Saying ‘yes’ to a new job and moving away from home. It’s very easy to stay with what you know and what you're good at and not to push yourself out of that comfort zone.

Taking that leap into a completely different career and moving away from all my family and friends is something that I'm proud I was able to do.

Even if it hadn't worked out as well as it had, I would have always been able to say that I gave it a go. As it turns out, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made, but it wasn't an easy one.

What is your advice for someone thinking of becoming a CA?

Qualifying as a CA provides you with a global passport for your career. From my group of friends who studied for their CA at the same time as me, one is working out in New Zealand, one in Thailand and the other is in London.

Becoming an accountant and tax adviser wasn’t on my radar when I left university. But when the opportunity arose I was more than happy to jump on board and work hard towards this next chapter of my life.

I think it’s really important to keep your mind open and be flexible to different possibilities that may arise – it’s never too late!

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